Monday, 23 January 2017

Why I think a new Union is unlikely for now

It's looking likely that the current Yes, or at least Howe, White and Sherwood, will re-unite with Anderson Rabin Wakeman for one night only at the Hall of Fame induction. This will only fuel the expectation of many Yes fans that history will repeat itself, that Yes and ARW will come together for a new Union.

I am sceptical. It could happen, for sure. This is Yes and its Byzantine line-up history is surely far from over. But I'm guessing that an official Yes/ARW reunion, beyond the induction ceremony, is unlikely.

People see the parallels with ABWH v. YesWest, but I suggest that was a very different situation. Two bands, both struggling, found the union mutually beneficial, a solution to both sides' problems. But today's two acts are more comfortable, so the same incentives don't exist.

While we talk about ABWH v. YesWest, remember that YesWest were moribund. They played no shows and released no material in the entire period ABWH existed. Rabin was off doing other things for much of the time. Despite looking, they failed to find a replacement for Anderson: yes, Squire wanted Sherwood, who sang on some demos, but both Rabin and indeed Sherwood himself never supported the plan. They had recorded some demos, but Atlantic reputedly rejected them.

The owners of the Yes name today are in a very different position. They have done 8 years of international touring and released two albums, that sold reasonably well. They're a proven deal. It looks like their label would happily take a new album from this line-up. I'm sure the label would be happier with the higher sales that Anderson back in the band would bring, but official Yes today has shown it can cope without him.

In the run-up to Union, ABWH were imploding. Remember that all the shenanigans around Howe and Wakeman being replaced by session musicians, that was happening before the union was agreed. They could barely stand to be in a room together. The band was dysfunctional. It's no surprise Anderson was thinking about the other guys! He'd worked with them recently and to great commercial success.

In contrast, ARW now are getting on like a house on fire. They appear to being have more fun, to have tighter relationships, than most Yes line-ups ever have had. No-one appears to be looking for an exit.

ABWH were falling apart and YesWest were struggling: the union looked like a good idea to the alternative. Today, ARW and official Yes are probably smaller commercial concerns, but both seem more stable than their predecessors. A union may be just as attractive, but the status quo is better these days, on both sides.

There are plenty of other differences to stop history repeating. The relationships are different. There's no Squire, who had seemed the most likely figure to bring people together. People are on different sides. Three quarters of ABWH had all worked extensively with Squire and White, and half with Kaye too; in comparison, Downes and Davison have no connections with the other side. It's been longer apart. Anderson had barely left YesWest, compared to now, over 12 years since he was in Yes.

If a reunion now is less likely, could anything change that? What would tip the balance and push everyone together again?

Money is the obvious factor. If one or other band sees their ticket sales collapsing, that could see them hurrying to negotiate a deal, although equally they might just choose to pack it in, let the other side 'win'.

Line-up changes would also shift the dynamic. If Rabin returns to soundtracks, or Wakeman decides to milk the recent top ten success of Piano Portraits, then the remaining two are in a much weaker position. Health problems could hit almost anyone, in Yes or ARW.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Poll: Best Yes-related album of the second half of 2016

There were surprisingly few Yes-related releases in the second half of 2016, and half of them were limited releases through Wakeman's online shop. That might explain why voting was low, just 22 votes, which produced a clear winner:

1. CIRCA:, Valley of the Windmill (w/ Sherwood, Kaye): 18 votes (82%)
2= Rick Wakeman, The Rainbow Suite: 1 vote (5%)
2= Rick Wakeman, The Complete Gospels: 1 vote (5%)
2= Rick Wakeman, Gastank: 1 vote (5%)

There was one 'other' vote for Sherwood's Citizen, but that came out the previous year. There were no votes for Leon Alvarado's The Future Left Behind (w/ Sherwood, Wakeman) or for Action Moves People United (w/ White, Downes, Moraz).